2011 Indian F1 GP Review
Amid the deafening roar of high-revving engines and an incredibly excited crowd, India arrived on the Formula 1 circuit in style this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel proved he really is unbeatable by storming to his 13th Pole Position this season, translating it into his 11th victory. But the real story this weekend was the track itself. For months the track looked as if it would never be ready - the track was barely dried when the FIA inspected the grounds. Many believed the race simply wouldn't go ahead - too many beurocratic obstacles lay ahead and as yet more stories of corruption and taxation issues arose, the future of the Indian GP looked doubtful.
Fast foward to the last weekend in October though, and we are standing among pristine grandstands, an immaculate (if dusty) track and there is the immense buzz of F1 everywhere. Every mall has an F1 car from one manufacturer or another, every billboard an F1 driver's face. F1 fever has certainly gripped Delhi.
Power outage in a press conference on Thursday earned negative points for the hosts, as did the backed-up drains in the press quarters. A day later, when two dogs entered the circuit and the free practice session had to be stopped, eyebrows were raised. But these were just a few glitches that were easily ironed out. Less easy were the issues with tickets - many turning up to their Rs35,000 (c.£500) seats in the grandstand found someone sitting in their seat with an equally-valid ticket, a victim of fraudulent ticket sales. Luckily many of the corporate seats were left untaken so everyone got a seat eventually.
The main surprise for everyone came in the form of the 5km ribbon of tarmac at Buddh International Circuit. All the drivers praised the track, some claiming it to be their favourite track of the season. There are many elevation changes on the track which make for some very interesting racing, with Jenson Button leading the praise saying "It's one of the circuits which definitely gets a big tick. I'm looking forward to coming back. The Indian people have welcomed us, I've never seen so many people smiling before. The crowd have been wonderful."
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya has championed an event in India since he first brought an F1 car over to the country in the 1980s. Three decades on, this weekend's landmark event marks the fulfilment of a dream. "It was like a dream come true," enthused Mallya. "If I was not glued to what was happening, I might have shed a tear or two out of pride and joy. I'm a relieved man. Racing is in my blood and putting an Indian team on the grid was a huge moment."
Ex-F1 driver and racing commentator Martin Brundle enthused "I'll be sad to leave India. For me it's been very enjoyable and a great success for Indian motorsport and Formula 1. There is a lot of poverty downtown. We can't change that but a facility like this can be a springboard. Year two and year three will be interesting, though. How many of the cricket and Bollywood stars will be on the grid then? Our following has come on leaps and bounds and this race will be a huge boost for Formula 1 in India."
Unfortunately the racing itself didn't quite live up to the promise. The drivers may have enjoyed the fast turns, undulating track and tight corners, but the amount of dust off-line meant that anyone attempting risky overtaking moves would have to be either very brave or very stupid. As a result the action on-track wasn't too enthralling.
In the end Vettel led all 60 laps, with Michael Schumacher making the biggest position leap from 11th place in qualifying to a 5th place on race day. Alonso and Webber battled quite closely for 3rd and 4th, with Alonso finally getting the final spot on the podium.
Full race results:
We can't wait to see what the Buddh International Circuit holds in store for F1 next year.
Images courtesy of F1Fanatic.co.uk